Do you honestly enjoy reading free verse? Can you explain to me why I should enjoy it, too?
This question is partly prompted by a recent AskMe on poetry
. I’m in the same boat as many responders, in that I really enjoy pre-twentieth-century poetry, and have read a great deal of it, but find myself completely put off by free verse. Stylistically the last straw seems to drop somewhere between “Prufrock” and “The Wasteland,” with Sylvia Plath being Right Out.
I have a decent background in literature, and I’m aware that in most literary circles admitting any of this will immediately tag you as the sort of person who thinks that his four-year-old could probably have painted that Jackson Pollack. I’d love to figure out whether that’s actually the case—whether there’s something about free verse I’m “just not getting,” (so that I could potentially be educated into an enjoyment of the form)—or whether I do
get it, but just don’t happen to like it, the way I naturally don’t like, you know, licorice.
In terms of poetic taste, I really enjoy logic and structure, get frustrated by seeming randomness, have a good sense of rhythm but probably a below-average ability to appreciate language as simple sound (Waller does nothing for me, for instance), and tend to relate to poetry more as rhetorical craft than as emotional self-expression. Unfortunately, that last point means that the standard defenses of free verse as embodying resistance to The Man, breaking the crusty shackles of tradition, being Lively and Spontaneous, or somehow getting closer to the unmediated outpourings of the human soul don’t resonate at all with me. If it’s really just a political, philosophical, or T-vs.-F thing, then hey, cool. But I do keep wondering whether there’s something else I’m missing that explains why my preferences are seemingly so out of step with those of virtually everyone else in the literary know.
So, question: if you’re someone who sincerely gets pleasure out of reading free verse, what does that experience feel like to you?
What is it that you’re enjoying in the process? Based on the impressions above, is there something important I’m missing? And if so, how can I work on developing an appreciation for the form?
[Anonymous because some fairly judgmental co-workers read Metafilter, and I’d prefer not to be outed as That Guy Who Just Doesn’t Get All This Weird Modern Art]